PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Romeo and Juliet — Full-Bloom Love

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20 Sep 2013

Chuck Cooper
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Another of Romeo's buds — Conrad Kemp, a South African actor making his Broadway debut — happens conveniently to be one of Bloom's buds. "About a year ago, I did a picture with Orlando that hasn't been released yet, called 'Zulu.' We got on very, very well, both creatively and off-screen. Orlando dropped my name into the mix for Benvolio, and they found me — on IMDB, would you believe it? — got hold of my agent, so I put an audition to tape, sent it in and here I am, on Broadway!"

Others making their Broadway bows include Corey Hawkins, fresh out of Juilliard, as Tybalt and Carolyn Michelle Smith, a member of the ensemble understudying Roslyn Ruff's Lady Capulet. Neither felt particularly different after hitting this milestone. "Human is human is what I say. I'm just grateful to have this beginning to my career," said she. Said he: "The work is the work, on Broadway or Off-Broadway."

Tony winner Chuck Cooper, a commanding presence on stage as Lord Capulet, confessed that his most difficult scene is having to rage at Rashad. "It's really hard because she's so sweet, just sitting there looking with those doe eyes. No, it's not easy."

Phylicia Rashad and her ex, sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, were beaming like proud parents, even before the curtain went up. She was particularly cool and collected, betraying no sign of "Mama nerves." "I'm fine, very relaxed," she insisted.

Kenny Leon, who directed her to a Tony for A Raisin in the Sun, but assigned Diahann Carroll the part in his decade-later spring remake with Denzel Washington, said he will direct Rashad's "Cosby Show" son, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, in the first staging ever of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in October at D.C.'s Arena Stage.

Charles Randolph Wright, who helmed Motown: The Musical across the street from the Richard Rodgers, said he also had a play bowing next month (Oct. 24) at the Arena Stage in Washington: Love in Afganistan. His companion, Maurice Hines, would be following him into the Arena with his show, Tapping Through Life. "We always tag-team," Wright cracked on their way into the theatre.

Sir Ian McKellen, wearing the only hat seen all evening (a straw one, at that) embraced Harvey Fierstein warmly on the red carpet. It was Fierstein's second time at R&J, a sign of support for Leveaux, who directed him in Fiddler on the Roof. Afterward, he planed to go over to the Hirschfeld, where Cyndi Lauper, his Tony-winning collaborator on Kinky Boots was hanging out after her world tour. Earlier he spent the day starting to cast his next opus, Casa Valentina, with director Joe Mantello.

Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox, late of Jeykll & Hyde, made the scene. His next project: "I'm doing my new club show downtown at The Canal Room, Back to the '80s, with Jessie's Girl. It's my new residence down there. You can check us every Saturday night at 8:00 and 11:00, starting this weekend."

In the long wait before The Iceman Cometh to BAM in January of 2015, Lee Wilkof is drumming up funds to direct a film called "No Pain Nudity."

"Go to this, and you'll understand," he said, slipping me a card (Kickstart.Lee.Com.). "It's about theatre. Nathan's in it. Boyd's in it, Jessica Hecht, Laurie Metcalf, every great actor around."

Other first-nighters included Uzo Aduba, NBC's Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts, Vinessa Shaw, Danielle Brooks, of “Orange Is the New Black,” Kimberly and Tyson Chandler, Mamie Gummer, Dule Hill of the upcoming After Midnight, Tonya Lewis Lee, Jay Manuel, Lupita Nyong'o, Elliot Zimet, Michael K. Williams, Lorraine Toussaint and, lest we forget, Mrs. Bloom: Miranda Kerr.

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